Description of Historic Place
Wesley Hall, an impressive stone-clad brick structure built in 1894-95, occupies a prominent site at the front of the University of Winnipeg campus on the western edge of downtown Winnipeg. The City of Winnipeg designation applies to the building on its footprint and the following interior elements: main entrance hallway and stairwell, Convocation Hall and Manitoba College stained glass.
Wesley Hall, the first building erected on what is now the University of Winnipeg campus, is one of Winnipeg's oldest educational facilities. The castle-like structure, built to house the classrooms, offices and dormitories of Wesley College, a theological and liberal arts institute affiliated with the Methodist Church and University of Manitoba, also is one of the province's best remaining examples of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. Its design by George Browne Jr. and Samuel Frank Peters incorporates many features typical of the style, including simple yet powerful massing, a broad entrance arch, textured stonework and prominent towers. With modest additions, the facility remained the college's principal building until the mid-1900s when increased enrolment, new programs and conversion in status to an independent degree-granting university required substantial campus expansion. Throughout this evolution, Wesley Hall's location, scale and design have sustained it as a landmark and symbol of its campus, one that is highly visible within its formally structured site. The hall also retains much of its architectural integrity, although it has been subject over time to renovations and extensive exterior restoration and stone re-cladding.
Source: City of Winnipeg Standing Policy Committee on Property and Development Meeting Minutes, May 1, 2001
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Wesley Hall site include:
- its highly visible location on the north side of Portage Avenue, a major Winnipeg thoroughfare, between Balmoral and Spence streets
- the building's placement well back from Portage Avenue behind a large landscaped space crossed by formal walkways and with other campus facilities situated to its east and north
Key exterior elements that define the building's Richardsonian Romanesque style and castle-like appearance include:
- the irregular, triangular-like massing, four storeys high, with long front, north and west elevations, and towers of various heights at three points, including polygonal and round front towers and an octagonal tower in the northwest corner
- the complex roofline composed of a steeply pitched main roof broken by gable-roofed wall dormers, west- and north-side parapet gables, high front chimneys and polygonal and conical tower roofs, also with wall dormers
- the robust use of random-coursed, rusticated stonework contrasted by smooth-cut stone belt courses, sills, lintels, hood-moulding, coping, modillioned cornice, etc.
- the construction of the walls, featuring the ca. 1995 facing grey New Brunswick sandstone and, behind that, the 1894-95 Calgary sandstone and brick
- the varied composition of the front and side facades, each defined by the orderly placement of windows, dormers, towers and, on the west side, by a gabled pavilion
- the contrasting rhythm displayed by the multiple tall windows in singles, pairs and threes beneath round-arched heads on the first and third floors and flat heads on the high basement and second and fourth levels
- the centred entrance bay marked by a broad Richardsonian Romanesque archway around a set of wooden doors with multi-paned side- and transom lights and three-part upper-storey windows adorned by columned mullions, chequerboard spandrel detailing, etc.
- features and details such as chequerboard and sunburst motifs in dormer and gable heads, numerous finials, columned mullions in windows on the east and west elevations, the southeast tower's pinnacles and dormer windows divided by Latin crosses, etc.
Key internal elements that define the facility's heritage character and function include:
- the largely unaltered interior layout incorporating the main front staircase with a rotunda and wide upper-level landings and floor plans organized around central hallways
- rooms with tall transomed doorways and large windows
- the two-level Convocation Hall with a balcony and high ceiling
- fine finishes and details such as the dark-stained oak staircase, door surrounds and rotunda and stairwell wainscotting, the Manitoba College stained-glass panels in openings at the third-level staircase landing, etc.